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Dakota Pipeline Protests

Standing Rock Sioux File Challenge After Trump’s Action on Dakota Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked a judge Tuesday to block an easement granted under the Trump administration that allowed the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project to go forward.

Attorneys for the tribe said in court documents that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers committed to a full environmental review of the project but was ordered to rush approvals after Trump took office. The documents were filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in support of the tribe's motion for summary judgment.

"Within a few days of his inauguration, the new President abandoned this commitment — perpetuating our nation's pattern of broken promises to the Tribe — and directed the Army to 'review and approve' pipeline permits on an expedited basis," the tribe's attorneys said in court papers.

Image: Dakota Access Pipeline site
The site of the final phase of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Tom Stromme / The Bismarck Tribune via AP

The crucial easement needed to finish the project was granted last week, and the company in charge of it told NBC News that drilling began as soon as the approval came down. The motion for summary judgment asks that the easement be vacated.

The tribe and its supporters believe the pipeline poses a threat to a reservoir that supplies the tribe's drinking water. The pipeline project, which crosses four states, is estimated to be able to transport 570,000 barrels of oil a day.

The pipeline has been the scene of months of protests. The project was delayed during President Barack Obama's administration, and a review of environmental approvals was launched.

At the time, several government agencies, including the Army Corps, said in a joint statement that the case highlighted the need for "a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects."

Pipeline Protesters: We Have to Go Into Strategic Fight Mode 5:42

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe was dealt a defeat on Monday when a judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order that would have halted construction. The easement covers 1.25 miles of the pipeline that runs under the Missouri River. The pipeline does not run on tribal land, but it crosses the river a half-mile upstream.

After months of delays, the $3.7 billion project is nearly finished. Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based company financing it, said Thursday: "We have started the drill to go beneath Lake Oahe and expect to be completed in 60 days."

"We look forward to having the pipeline in service in approximately 83 days," spokeswoman Vicki Granado said.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II called the pipeline "dangerous."

"President Trump claims he has not received 'a single phone call' opposing this widely criticized project," Archambault said in a statement from Earthjustice, a group working with the tribe. "Maybe he should turn the White House phones back on, because millions of people have raised their voices against this dangerous project."

Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman said in the statement: "The Trump Administration is circumventing the law: wholly disregarding the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux and ignoring the legally required environmental review."

The motion argues that the Army Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to prepare a full environmental impact statement about the river crossing.

Jan. 24: Trump Signs Executive Orders on Keystone, Dakota Access Pipelines 3:08

Energy Transfer Partners says the underground pipeline has been built to be one of the safest pipelines in the world. Chief Executive Kelcy Warren has called concerns over its impact on the tribe's water supply "unfounded."

Trump signed the presidential memorandum calling for the approval review of the Dakota Access project on the same day that he signed an order aimed at advancing the Keystone Oil XL Pipeline, a project rejected by Obama.